Race Recap: Rock n Roll San Jose Half Marathon

There was so much procrastination about running this race. I was running it, then I got a nasty cold so I wasn’t and then at 7.30 on Saturday night I found myself making a playlist so apparently I was! At 6am on Sunday, I left the house and drove the half-hour down to San Jose. ‘I’ve forgotten something’ I told myself for a few miles. It turned out to be my Garmin. I’d be running blind. But that was probably a good thing. My training has been less than stellar and I wasn’t 100% health wise – running blind was a good idea.

Super-early to the start line!
Super-early to the start line!

Getting to the race was super easy. There was plentiful parking at the SAP centre (although we’d been warned to get there before 7am if we wanted a place). I parked, walked the 10 minutes to the start line, snapped some photos and sat down to wait the hour until the race started.  I’d been given the bib by the friend of a friend who is injured. She and I had exchanged bibs outside Pinkberry in Stanford Mall on Friday night – it was cool to meet her. (Hi if you’re reading this!!) My place  was in Corral 16 behind the 2 hr 30 marker so I would definitely not be going out too fast. The only downside is that it meant there was a long wait between Corral 1 setting off and our corral. The race staggered the start quite precisely so that waves setting off didn’t have to stop for the trains trundling through the centre. So it was about 35 minutes before I got to start the race – or so I thought. I had no watch! As I was about to start, Jess came flying through (the course had a couple of places where runners saw other runners in the opposite direction) and then I was super-hyped to start. And before long, we were off.

The start line…

The course is perfect for PRs – it’s pretty much entirely flat apart from two underpasses you run down and then up. Having said that, it’s a little boring. There are no goose-bump sights like the Golden Gate Bridge or fields of grapes covered in fog. There’s not a lot to see so I put my music on loud and concentrated on running steadily. My legs took a mile or so to loosen up but eventually they were running more smoothly. The first five miles or so wind their way round residential streets before heading back to the start-line and heading out in the other direction. I was hugely impressed by the number of local residents who came out to cheer – kids had their breakfast tables set up in the gardens and some people were even playing musical instruments for us. A few people were handing out food or drink and a couple had their hoses on to cool runners down – it was HOT today! At mile 5, I took my first Gu and then saw Jess hurtling back on her way to the finish line. Seeing her looking so awesome (and the sugar) did wonders for my morale and I found myself picking up the pace for a mile or so. I was running pretty steadily, I was happy with how I was doing, passing people all the time. It was hot now – it went up to the 90s/30s today and the race organizers did an excellent job of having plentiful water at water stops and plenty of hoses out at every water stop. I made a point of getting wet at every stop and that was gooood! Having said that, when ‘Let it go‘ came onto my playlist, I felt a little resentful of Elsa and her frozen fractals whilst I melted into the pavement. By Mile 10 I was looking forward to stopping. I took my next Gu, which made me feel a bit sick and pressed on and soon enough, I was heading back towards the finish line. At Mile 12 I stepped on the gas as much as I could, I felt pretty good and pushed and pushed, especially at the Mile 13 marker  – I flew down that final 0.1 as hard as I could and was absolutely done at the end. As I crossed the line, I saw the clock was about 2.30 – which, assuming I started 35 minutes after the clock meant I’d gone well under two hours. I was delighted! I got water and my enormous medal and sat in the shade for a long while to recover. The lady whose bib I had run with texted me to congratulate me so I asked her if she knew my time. She did. 2.02 It turned out that when I thought I wanted to run in about two hours, I actually meant 1.59.59. And apparently I didn’t start at 35 minutes past the clock. I was pretty gutted. There are many reasons that this race wasn’t fast for me but in March I ran the same distance in 1.52 so I’ve gained 10 full minutes in 7 months. I’m not after sympathy here, honestly, but it was sobering and kind of depressing. Writing this report 8 hours later, I’m cool with it but I definitely need to look at my training. A few thoughts on the race. It was my first Rock n Roll.

  • As would be expected with a huge race company, it was very well managed. I got inexplicably hungry half an hour before the race and no shops were open. I asked at the Information tent and they had water and bagels and bananas for runners in a tent nearby. I was very grateful.
  • MANY portaloos. There was some queueing but it wasn’t bad at all.
  • The race starts at 8am. It needs to start at 7am.
  • I felt that they dealt with the heat very well – plenty of drinks and volunteers at water stations and the hoses were a godsend.
  • There was more shade than I had expected. I’d expected much more exposure but on the whole there was shade if you were prepared to run to find it. I think I ran a lot of extra mileage finding shade, getting in the hoses and dodging runners. I definitely did run the tangents.
  • I was surprised that there weren’t more bands en route. I’d initially left my music off so I could enjoy the atmosphere but very quickly it was silent apart from heavy breathing so the headphones went on.
  • Having said that, there were more cheerleaders along the route than in the entire ‘Bring it on‘ movie. The British girl in me LOVED every single one of them. I wish I’d been a cheerleader.
  • The course isn’t exciting but it is flipping PR perfect – thus Jess’s astonishing 4 min PR to finish in 1.25! My friend also PRd in the 10k.
  • It was crowded. There were 15,000 runners out today and I ran behind most of them. Admittedly I was in the wrong corral for my pace but I spent a lot of time dodging people! I wonder how it would be in my correct corral. I think I prefer smaller races on the whole even though I very much enjoyed the energy of a big race.
  • The race bib is ENORMOUS!!! It was so big that I tore off the bag-check bit and the free beer bit and left them at home just so I could fit it on my running skirt. Why the big bibs, guys?
  • The medal is also humongous. I kind of like it.
  • Parking was easy if you get there early enough. The walk to the start-line was super-easy. The walk back to the car was murderous.
Basically as big as my torso.
Basically as big as my torso.
Not small.
Not small.

A few other observations.

  • Apparently I am not the only other person out there who likes neon.
  • I love looking at other people’s outfits during races. Wispy tops attached to sports bras are all the rage.
  • If I’m clutching at morale-boosting straws, my bib today was registered to the 40 – 49 group…my new gang in three months. I came in the top 17%  of that age-group and the top 14% of all women. Not so shabby.

I’m really glad I did this race. I’ve felt so rough this week that I was just grateful to be almost healthy again and to be strong enough in leg and heart to be able to run. Thank you to the lovely lady who gave me her bib and thank you to the people of San Jose for a great morning’s work!

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Nic J says:

    Well done! I’m mightily impressed that a) you ran at all, given the excessive amounts of snot you subjected yourself to in the week before, and b) that you posted a pretty respectable time given (a) plus your change in training structure (which must need some sort of adapting to). Considering your legs went on strike a week or so ago as well!
    I’m back up to 7 miles, so starting feel like I’m getting back up there, although feet still not fixed (but much better than they have been!!) x

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you. I’m not as disappointed now as I was at the finish line, primarily because I thought I’d done much better at the time. It’s brought home to me that I need a different training plan so that’s been quite helpful!

      Yay for the 7 miles, boo for the feet.

  2. dlubi says:

    Congrats! Way to get through a really hot race with a great time!!! Don’t worry about this time versus your other time – each day is different and the illness factor plays a huge role in overall performance. I hope you feel better soon and hope to catch you out there on the trails for a run sometime soon too!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you – I suspect your race was much MUCH hotter, you poor thing. I’ve been thinking about it today and actually, in retrospect, I really enjoyed the race and it’s given me a MASSIVE hunger to do more races. I’d been lacking race-fervour lately, this butt-kicking was just what I need!

      1. dlubi says:

        Oh yeah – it was a hot one Sunday, but that was totally my own fault (who signs up for a tri in the desert?!?). I completely understand the race hunger and totally get it too!!! I may try to race hard through a few 5ks before I go after anything long for a while though… (and I may avoid the desert for a while too). Keep up the good work!

  3. Jen says:

    Congrats! First, the positives: free race, energetic spectators, and you gave it your all to the finish line. You ran as best as you could – there’s a lot to be proud about!

    You had several things going against you yesterday: the heat (huge), your cold (also huge), running extra to dodge people and find shade and water (big), and perhaps not being as mentally prepared in that you didn’t know for sure you were running the race until the night before (can’t be quantified). So yes, you ran 10 minutes slower, but I bet if any of the above had been different, you would’ve definitely run a sub-2. And you know, it could be a lot worse — you could’ve run-walked and ended up with a 10-minute all-time personal worst like *some* people (or rather, someone…me). 😉

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you. Yes – there is a lot to be happy with and I’m definitely happier thinking back today than I was yesterday. It’s made me wonder about running ‘blind’. The past two times I’ve done this, it’s turned out well but I wonder if I would have run harder (if I could have run harder) yesterday if I’d known.

      There’s no shame in your PW this summer…you were injured. I was only thinking about that race of yours yesterday and thinking how gutsy you were to start it and complete it, I’m not sure if I would have had the strength of character to do it in your shoes!

  4. Angela says:

    I agree with the above — you really can’t use this as an indicator of anything given that it was soooo hot and that you were kind of sick. (I’ve read that for every five degrees above 60F, you should expect to run ~30 seconds slower with the same level of effort — it makes a HUGE difference.) Be proud that you ran hard & finished strong!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks. That’s useful information and encouraging.

  5. So you decided to do it! I was checking Instagram all day, yesterday, to know if you did it or no. I honestly think your time is good giving the circumstances. It’s hard to be efficient at a race if you start so far from your pace range (AND without a watch surrounded with people slower than you). You started with people aiming for 2:30!!! Also, it was HOT.
    But I understand your disappointment at the time knowing you didn’t have any clue about how you were doing during the race.

    1. Cathryn says:

      I didn’t get any really good IG pics so I didn’t have anything to post until later when I found one that filtered well – you should be on Twitter, I put something up there 🙂

      I mentioned in a previous comment…if anything, yesterday’s race has given me back some hunger to race hard and get some results. I was lacking that hunger but today it’s all i’ve been thinking about. Race hunger…and actual hunger!! All the food!

      1. Twitter, not Twitter… the eternal question 😉 Yeah for HUNGER, all of the hungers!! I take it 🙂

  6. Great job. I’m very impressed. I’ll have to remember the size of the bibs, I’m headed to Vegas in November to run the RNR Vegas 1/2 marathon. Wonder if that medal will be huge?! I’ve slowed down a little too. I think it is time to start some speed work but then I remember that it’s not about the speed it’s about enjoying the run/race.
    You did great and I’m glad you did it. 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you – I’m glad I did it but your race was spectacular, congratulations!

      Yes, the bib was enormous. I was going to pin it on my top but my top was mesh to help with the heat and the bib would have completely blocked the airflow on the mesh! It was HUGE! The medal is enormous too. You get your money’s worth for RnR!

  7. Grace says:

    Well done! Sounds like a well-organised race. That’s a totally respectable time given all the factors working against you. Plus, this wasn’t a goal race anyway, right? It sounds like you have your training mojo back though, so that’s great…sometimes a runner needs a little external push 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah – it’s strange how I’ve found myself quite fired up to get some redemption, maybe that’s what I needed after all!! And I’m cool with the result now – it was just a ‘shock’ when I thought I’d gone comfortably sub-two.

      Never hurts to have the pride knocked out of you, does it!

  8. bt says:

    Congrats, Cat. Fully agree with all the folks who say you had many obstacles in your way. The heat alone likely makes up for the difference in time between last race and this one.

  9. Paulette says:

    I wish I could have been there to cheer! We had signed up for Bridge to Bridge bc of a friend visiting so we were in SF. I totally agree about the big bibs, I always fold them. Oh, and you mentioned Bring it On – fantastic!!! I love the cheerleaders on this course. 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      I saw you were in SF, don’t worry. But a cheer-er would have been nice.

      My friend is actually in Bring It On! When they go to their first competition, there’s a little red-headed cheerleader (in grey, i think) praying before the competition. That’s my friend. I’m so proud of her 🙂

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